Don’t you hate it when you see a sensationalist headline? I know I do. Some “news” sources are worse about this than others. Take the Weather Channel’s site, Weather.com. If you go there now, there’s a bunch of stories about the tornadoes that just swept through the South, but on a not-so-busy weather day, you’re more likely to see stories like “The World’s Scariest Airport Runways” or “Beached Whale Explodes!” These are not exactly weather-related, and even worse, if you read these stories, the runway turns out to be fairly normal (never even a crash!), and the whale didn’t explode, per se, but just kind of broke apart – like dead, rotting animals tend to do. The headline was meant to draw you in, to get you to read a story that, in actuality, wasn’t interesting enough by itself to make you want to read it.
So with that said, I must apologize for my headline to this post – The Reason People Hate Christians. Because I’ll admit that there were some sensationalist motives behind the choosing of that title. Technically, this is the second post in a series that I titled Regular Revelation, because it revolves around a study of the book of Revelation I’m doing (in my defense, I did sub-title it with parentheses). But the name Regular Revelation didn’t seem strong enough to portray what I wanted to get across in this post. It definitely didn’t catch anyone’s attention! And unlike the Weather.com stories, I believe I can actually touch on some of the reasons people in America are growing to hate Christians more and more.
In the most recent session of Beth Moore’s Here and Now, There and Then: A Lecture Series on Revelation (session 3, to be exact), she touches on Revelation 1:10-11, and then Revelation chapters 2 & 3. To give you a brief overview, Revelation starts with the apostle John introducing himself and admitting that he has been exiled on the island of Patmos “on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.” (1:9). He then describes a vision he had of Christ. In that vision, Jesus tells John,
Write what you see in a book and send it to the seven churches, to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea. (1:11)
These 7 churches were located in the province of Asia, and they were all connected by the infamous Roman road system. As you can see in the image below, they were found pretty much in the center between Rome (which is in Italy, or the boot-shaped country in the far top-left) and Israel (on the far right, where Jerusalem is found). And you can also see that the island of Patmos is just to the southwest of Ephesus. So when these letters were carried to the churches, they would follow the path just as Jesus mentioned them in v. 11 – first to Ephesus, then to Smyrna, Peramum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea – in that order.
Chapters 2 and 3 then contain the content of these 7 letters. Beth Moore spent the majority of the session talking about just one of those letters – the first one, to the church at Ephesus. And it is in this letter, and specifically one statement that Beth Moore made during the session, that I believe God revealed a truth about Himself to me last night.
The letter to Ephesus says this:
To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: ‘The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand,who walks among the seven golden lampstands. I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. 7 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’ (Revelation 2:1-7)
In this letter, Christ commends the Ephesian church for their recognition and intolerance of falseness (v. 2). He then warns them that they have “abandoned the love you had at first” (v. 4). Finally, He commends them again, saying “Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.” (v. 6). Beth Moore summed up these commendations and warnings with one sentence:
The Ephesians hated the things Christ hated, but they did not love the things Christ loved.
This, again, was like a slap to the face, because I believe it describes so many of us in the church today! I think if you asked a random non-Christian off the street what they think of when they think of Christians, most of them are going to think first of the things we’re against. Homosexuality. Abortion. A whole slew of other things. But what about the things we’re for? I’m not sure the world around us knows exactly what we stand for…only what we stand against.
There’s no doubt the animosity toward Christians, even in America, is growing. And there’s no doubt this is to be expected (see John 15:18-19). But at the same time, Christ says we are to be identified not by the things we hate, but by the things we love (see John 13:35).
From this letter to the church in Ephesus, I’d say that it’s awful easy to get this one wrong. It’s awful easy to fall into a pattern of hating things that we know God hates, and forgetting that love is what defines us! And while we do this, the world sees so-called believers displaying hate in some of the worst ways (can you say Westboro?), and they hate us for it. Because it’s easy to hate a hater.